Today I thought I would do a bit of an opinion piece just to break up the number of game read throughs I have done recently.
I like to think that deep down all of us would like to spend all day role playing and not have to go to work. So how viable is that?
Micheal has a patreon profile which doesn’t bring much money in but if you contrast that with The Angry GM he is earning $1110 (and counting per blog post, based on 4 per month. That is $4440 x 12 $53,000 a year for writing one blog post a week. There was an article I read this week that put the US poverty line at about $23,000/year so you are not going to starve on $53k. So yes you can write about games and make a living off it.
Blogs are about the easiest option. They used to be far more popular than they are now, as social media has taken off blogs have somewhat diminished. It is easy to make money on a blog but much much harder on social media. You cannot just plonk some ads alongside your content and get paid like you used to.
Blogs fall into some basic types. The Angry GM is an opinion blog. Review sites make money from small commission payments when you refer a reader who then goes on an buys something. Stargazer’s is largely a review site. In its hey day it had 10k readers a week and that would have generated a reasonable income but not enough to live on. I don’t know the figures but I do know that Michael still has a day job.
Some blogs are magazine sites. Gnome Stew is one of my favourites. The advertising on sites like Gnome Stew earns in the region of $2 per 1000 pages seen. They typically get 17,000 visitors per month, each views a guestimaged 6 pages per visit based upon their site design and they publish new content 12 times a month. Multiply that all up and you just over $800 a month. They have a little Patreon following taking them up to a $1k a month. They also sell their own books. How much that brings in I cannot easily guess. Using typical figures for online sales and the size and price of their books I would put it in the region of $30k/year. So Gnome Stew probably earns about $50/year like The AngryGM.
If you don’t want to blog about roleplaying than you can create and sell games. I have produced dozens of supplements over the past couple of years from full games to simple plot hooks for adventures. Not one thing that I have produced failed to sell. These days of PDF downloads and sites like OneBookShelf (drivethuRPG, DM’s Guild and RPGnow) make becoming a small publisher very easy indeed. Making serious money from it is, in contrast, extremely difficult. Ever since Ed Greenwood’s Forgotten Realms setting as picked up and adopted as an official setting it has seemed tantalisingly easy to write and sell your own adventures or setting. After all, we all write adventures for our players week in, week out. Surely we can write an adventure module or path and make a killing? There is a big gap between what us a normal GMs produce and the adventures released by WotC or Paizo! Probably the biggest differences are Art and Playtesting. Just about every game played has some house rules or loose interpretations. These can make an adventure that works for your group go very pear shaped every quickly when another group tries to play it. The Art question is another thorn in the side of the independent publisher. The cover and interior art can make or break a game or supplement. Art is also not cheap of you commission it.
We are all storytellers. I also think that quite a few of us harbour the idea of writing up our campaigns to create a novel. Drivethufiction allows anyone to do that. You can easily write just a single chapter and sell it for a few pence as a PDF. I produce a fanzine for one of my favourite games and that sells as a PDF but I also create and sell a kindle version and paperback. In total I have published eight issues of the fanzine plus a print version of one game and the first supplement of that game. Interestingly, I sell more printed copies on Amazon than I do on the RPG sites, where PDF is far more popular.
How much you are going to earn through self publishing is a rather open ended question. If you focus on one game system and the publisher is open to third party supplements then the size of the gaming community is the size of your market. This means that 5e and Pathfinder attract the most attention, so it is harder to get noticed but if you make something popular then it will make a lot more money.
It is certainly possible to mix and match all of the above suggestion and create a completely game-centric income for not a lot of work. That would then free up your time to play games with your friends. Even if you don’t make enough to give up the day job it is easy to make enough that you can have any game you want when you want it and not have to worry about it, just worry about the bookshelf space instead.
So, with New Year’s resolutions just around the corner maybe a little secondary income could be an ambition?
Stargazer’s World was never meant as something which makes me money. I never ran any ads and only use affiliate links to DriveThruRPG and the Profantasy Software store to get a bit of store credits. Over the last 8 years or so I made less than $1500 this way. And pretty much all of it went immediately back into stuff I bought from the site to review. The real sum is probably much less, since the reports I have access to, are not realy accurate. So it may show that I got a 10 cents, but in fact it was only half of that because there was a 50% sale at the moment. When it comes to costs I pay about €15 (about $18) per month for hosting my sites (including this blog, the Stargazer Games’ site, etc.). The blog is now a bit more than 9 years old, so I probably paid about $1900 for hosting it.
I don’t take money for the games I’ve designed, and I didn’t get any money for any work I did for publishers (like proof-reading). As you have guessed, I do have a full-time day job and running this blog is first and foremost a hobby – a creative outlet. With the money made using Patreon so far, I can probably go to the movies once … alone … and without any snacks. I doubt that my Patreon account will ever bring in enough money to pay for my bills. I am definitely not active enough to warrant anything like this. I setup the Patreon account so that people have a convenient way to send a couple of bucks my way, if they so choose. I don’t rely on it.
One last thing: in our best years (2011) the blog had about 17 to 26 thousand hits per month. Nowadays its more like 10 thousand in a good month, but it also was way less for quite some time. Posting daily helped a lot back then, but it’s just not something I can do at the moment or in the foreseeable future.
I make about $300 a year from my own publications and about the same in royalties for products I have worked on for other people.
I do post affiliate links but as I almost invariably reference free resources 5% of nothing is still nothing.
I have an ambition to play around with creating RPG resources until I have enough money to buy a farm or small holding for our horses. It could be a pipe dream or maybe one day I will create the next Fate or M:YZ. I think that if you never try then you will never succeed.
Over on the RolemasterBlog we did a few months of posting every single day and it is really hard. People read for quality not quantity and real life does not always leave you with ample time and inspiration to produce a quality blog every single day.
For such a niche game as rolemaster I would dream of getting 10k visitors a month. I am pleased 5k visitors a month and that is a good month.